Today, the GDS-Index released the 2019 ranking of the sustainability performance of 50 global business tourism and events destinations, at the closing ceremony of the 58th ICCA Congress held in Houston.

The Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) is the leading sustainability benchmarking and improvement programme for business tourism and events destinations around the world. The GDS-Index serves as a collaborative and competitive platform for Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) that promotes the sustainable growth of destinations, regions and countries through knowledge sharing, capacity building, strategy development and certification. Increasingly, the GDS Index is being used on a political level to allow local governments to evaluate their progress in sustainability

Gothenburg received the 2019 GDS-Index Leadership Award

In this fourth year of benchmarking, the GDS Index developed and aligned a more demanding set of criteria with other significant stakeholders including the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the Social Progress Imperative and the Events Industry Council. With the help of an external technical advisory board, this process has brought transparency, rigour and additional value to the GDS Index, further embedding its use in the Meetings, Events and Tourism sectors.

GDS-Index 2019 Results

The GDS-Index benchmarks performance across four key areas: city’s environmental strategy and infrastructure; city’s social sustainability performance; industry supplier support; and the destination management organisation’s strategy and initiatives.


Gothenburg came top of the list of cities in the GDS-Index for the fourth year running. With a score of 89.64 out of a possible 100 points, and with a 7% improvement from last year, Gothenburg received the 2019 GDS-Index Leadership Award.

Annika Hallman, Director at Gothenburg Convention Bureau shares: “The GDS-Index has been a powerful lever in our sustainability work. It has helped us to improve performance and inspire others to become more sustainable. We have lectured and received study visits from other cities and used our top position to drive the sustainable development of the global meeting industry, as well as strengthening Gothenburg’s profile as a leading congress and convention destination”.

The 2019 GDS-Index results demonstrate that DMOs are in action on sustainability with a 29% increase in terms of overall performance from 2018. New destinations who advanced into the top 10 included Aalborg and Dublin, with significant jumps in performance for Glasgow, Sydney and Zurich.


2019 GDS-Index Awards

The 2019 GDS-Index Awards were announced simultaneously to honour the sustainability performance, innovation and improvement of the destinations.

The judging panel, made up of six industry experts, selected Sydney to win the GDS-Index Innovation Award for its outstanding “Sustainable Destination Partnership”; a multi-stakeholder collaboration that has resulted in the environmental footprinting of the Sydney hospitality sector, then the co-creation of a strategy to achieve a 70% reduction in carbon emissions and divert 90% of its waste by 2030. The jury was also impressed by the joint second place projects presented by Wonderful Copenhagen for its Stakeholder Engagement programme and the Green Supply Chains initiative of Ljubljana Tourism.

For the first time, the GDS-Index Best Improver Award was presented to a region, with the honours being installed on the Meet in Ireland Partnership representing Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Kerry. They joined the GDS-Index in 2018 with a vision to collaborate and improve destination sustainability as a region. Aalborg and Ljubljana also made major performance and ranking jumps.

Paul Mockler, Head of Commercial Development at Fáilte Ireland commented; “We invest in the sustainable development of tourism across the country to ensure that communities nationwide can benefit from the social and economic impact tourism brings to Ireland. We are delighted to see our investment in sustainable practices across our conventions bureaux in Dublin and the regions being recognised with this special merit award. We are at that start of our journey to become recognised as a world-leading sustainable destination and look forward to further exciting developments in the coming months.”


The GDS Index witnessed many examples of sustainability leadership and best practice from multiple destinations including; Copenhagen, Malmö, Lausanne and Glasgow (strategy), Ireland and Flanders (region programs), Brisbane and Sydney (collaboration and partnerships), Monaco, Lyon and Helsinki (Marketing & Comms) and Gothenburg (Reporting).

James Rees, President of ICCA commented “As the effects of climate change become evident and social pressure for action increases, the meetings and events industry must continue to create positive economic impact for destinations, but also help influence the social and environmental policies that are affected by our business. Destination Management Organisations are a key catalyst and enabler of a sustainable visitor economy, and I am delighted to see the GDS-Index evolving and playing a vital role in accelerating the creation of sustainable destinations.”